Friday afternoon bubble games to watch

March, 13, 2009
Here's a quick look at Friday's early games with bubble implications:

Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina, noon ET, ESPN2, ESPN360: The Hokies snapped a 1-6 slide by beating Miami 65-47 in the first round of the ACC tournament.

But to earn an at-large bid, Virginia Tech probably will have to beat the ACC regular-season champions. North Carolina has won six of its past eight games against Tech, including an 86-78 victory March 4 in Blacksburg, Va.

Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 22 points and 15 rebounds in that game.

The Tar Heels won't have point guard Ty Lawson in Friday's game, so the Hokies might be able to control pace.

The Hokies have two really good road victories at Wake Forest and Clemson, but they are only 2-8 against RPI top-50 opponents and 7-11 against the top 100. Another signature win over the Tar Heels probably would be enough to get them into the NCAA's 65-team field.

Minnesota vs. Michigan State, noon ET, ESPN, ESPN360: The Gophers might have moved to the right side of the bubble after beating Northwestern 66-53 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament Thursday.

But with so many Big Ten teams fighting for at-large bids, Minnesota might need to beat the Spartans on Friday to feel confident on Selection Sunday.

The Gophers struggled down the stretch at the end of the regular season and finished 9-9 in Big Ten play. But they have five RPI top-50 victories, having beaten Louisville (neutral court), Illinois (home), Wisconsin (home and road) and Ohio State (home). The Gophers are 5-7 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-9 against the top 100.

Michigan State routed the Gophers 76-47 on Feb. 4 in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans held Minnesota to only 17.6 percent shooting and led 42-16 at the half. Gophers coach Tubby Smith's teams are 2-8 all-time against Michigan State.

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, ESPN360: Both Big Ten teams probably have done enough to earn a spot in the NCAA's 65-team field, but the winner certainly will lock up a bid.

Even after a six-game losing streak at one point, UW finished 10-8 in Big Ten play. It swept games against fellow Big Ten bubble teams Michigan and Penn State but lost twice to Minnesota.

Wisconsin has four RPI top-50 victories, having beaten Illinois and Ohio State at home and swept the Wolverines. The Badgers are 4-9 against RPI top-50 opponents and 9-10 against the top 100.

Ohio State finished 10-8 in the Big Ten standings after sweeping Michigan, beating Penn State and splitting games against Minnesota. The Buckeyes lost at Wisconsin but can erase any doubts by beating the Badgers in the Big Ten tourney on Friday.

Ohio State has five victories over RPI top-50 opponents, having beaten Butler, Purdue and Minnesota at home and swept the Wolverines. The Buckeyes are 5-8 against RPI top-50 foes and 9-9 against the top 100.

South Carolina vs. Mississippi State, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN360: Even after finishing as SEC East co-champions, the Gamecocks probably will have to beat the Bulldogs in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament to earn an NCAA at-large bid.

The Gamecocks simply have very little meat on their NCAA résumé. They still have only one victory over an RPI top-50 opponent, having beaten No. 48 Florida 70-69 on Jan. 21.

South Carolina suddenly is getting some mileage out of an 85-84 win at Baylor and 68-56 victory over Auburn at home. The Gamecocks also swept games against traditional SEC power Kentucky, which might still carry a little weight in the NCAA war room.

But South Carolina might have to win two games in Atlanta to have a chance on Selection Sunday. It has a 1-5 record against RPI top-50 foes and is 7-8 against the top 100.

Mark Schlabach | email

College Football and Basketball



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